In this time of reassessing Fromm’s contributions to psychoanalysis, I would like to call attention to Fromm’s contribution to current relational theories in psychoanalysis, a contribution that has been insufficiently recognized. His thinking and perspectives concerning, for example, the significance of mutuality and emotional connection for health, the meaning of pathology, and the goals of psychoanalysis are all underpinnings of the relational perspective.
Relational theory in general emphasizes that the human being is fundamentally a part of a network of relationships. In contrast to drive or developmental arrest theories, the relational perspective sees the person as continually motivated by the need for relationship and an active participant in shaping the internal consequence of external experience (Mitchell, 1988).
But relational theory is not monolithic. Nor, ironically, is it always “relational” in its concepts. In this paper I focus on the linkage between Fromm’s work and a particular relational theory of development and clinical treatment that has emerged in recent years. It diverges, in certain important respects, from the main body of relational thinking. It is known as the Stone Center model because of its origin within a group of researchers and clinicians, lead by Jean Baker Miller, who are associated with the Stone Center for Developmental Studies at Wellesley College (Miller, 1976, 1986, 1988; Jordan, et al., 1991).
The Stone Center model has developed independently from and without explicit reference to Fromm’s work. In addition, it originated from within a specific context: revised thinking about women’s development within patriarchal culture. Nevertheless, it has clear intellectual and philosophic roots within some of Fromm’s major contributions. These include his emphasis on the overriding human need for mutual affirmation and authentic relational connection, and his original thinking about the impact of patriarchy and gender socialization upon the individual’s potential for health or sickness (e.g. Fromm, 1947, 1955, 1956, 1969, 1975, 1980, 1989, 1992).
The Stone Center model has developed original perspectives about pathology and human development that resolve some conflicting aspects of Fromm’s work, particularly his dual tendency to embrace a relatively conventional view of separation and individuation while simultaneously arguing that positive human development is a process of evolving and maturing forms of connection.
The Stone Center model also stands alone among relational theories in incorporating an explicit analysis of the role of gender, culture, and values upon human development and pathology. This makes it, in my view, the most promising and relevant relational model – and the one most linked with Fromm – for understanding and treating men and women in today’s career-oriented, technologically-advanced consumer culture.
FEATURES OF RELATIONAL THEORY
The relational perspective addresses and corrects some of the limitations and inadequacies of both the drive-theory and self-psychology or arrested development models. For example, Benjamin (1989) has argued that conventional psychoanalytic formulations which equate maturity with separation and individuation portray, essentially, an unrelated self – tightly bounded, internally structured, and without empathic recognition of others as subjects.
The relational perspective limits our understanding, however, to the degree that it ignores or discounts forces within the larger culture that distort or damage the nature and quality of relational connection from birth through old age. These include gender socialization, patriarchy, and careerist values.
Fromm, of course, stressed the role of such forces in determining the avenues open to healthy or unhealthy development, and thereby brought a political dimension into a theory of human development. This, no doubt, accounts for much of the opposition to and dismissal of his work by other analysts. But this dimension is also what continues to make his work ever-relevant, even critical, to understanding and treating troubled men and women in today’s culture. And it is also the point of intersection between his work and the Stone Center model, which emphasizes the roles of mutuality, empathy, and strengthening of the “relational self” as elements of healthy development. These elements are affected by the system of power relations operating in the family and larger culture.
CONNECTION, DISCONNECTION, AND MUTUALITY
Fromm maintained that a continuum of relational connection always exists between self and other, as well as between self and the larger natural world. It is rooted in the human need to restore lost connection with the world that is part of the human condition, and which generates isolation, powerlessness, and helplessness.
The relational continuum extends from the deeply regressive, to dominant-subordinate (the “normal” form of social and intimate relations), to relationships based more on the practice of mutuality, authenticity, and reciprocal affirmation. All forms of relationship are attempts to establish and maintain some form of connection, even when they are at the expense of one’s emotional reality and health. All forms of distortion in human relationship, then, originate in a striving for authentic, affirming, mutual connection.
To the extent that family and cultural life within contemporary culture is founded on disconnection and patriarchy, it is inherently pathogenic. This distortion-potential is further reinforced through adulthood, particularly through adaptation and reward within the workplace and by cultural values which define various forms of disconnection, inauthenticity, and “power-over” as healthy, mature adult development. The damage this produces for men is less overtly visible than that for women, because men move into the power positions, identify with them, and are rewarded by them.
The Stone Center Perspective
These perspectives of Fromm’s provide a backdrop to much of the relational theory developed by Miller and her colleagues. This model originated in the recognition that equating successful male adaptation with health for both sexes is a faulty assumption. Miller and her colleagues (Miller, 1976, 1986, 1988; Jordan, et al., 1991) argue that a sense of connection to others is a central organizing feature of women’s development, and that disconnection, or violation of mutuality, will produce pathology in some form.
Miller found that most women develop a heightened sense of value and effectiveness from a context of relationships, which leads to a greater sense of connection, rather than a sense of separation that has been defined as healthy individuation – essentially a quality of isolated, disconnected autonomy. This point of view links with Fromm’s perspectives about the distorted forms of social and individual relations that occur within patriarchal, authoritarian culture.
The work of Gilligan (Gilligan, 1982; Gilligan, Lyons, & Hanmer, 1989; Gilligan, Rogers, & Tolman, 1991; Brown & Gilligan, 1992) has added to this perspective through research that shows that the traditional psychoanalytic model of development and individuation was rooted in male development, which was accepted as the norm of human development. Yet male development is, itself, distorted and deformed within a culture of patriarchy, the very conditions that create, in Fromm’s terms, the “normal” social character oriented to domination-submission – or further along the pathological spectrum, to sadism and masochism – as solutions to the need for relatedness.
Gilligan argued that in contrast to boys, girls develop a relational ethical structure privileging affiliation between and among people, and that a devaluing of sense of self occurs among girls as they pass through adolescence.
Similarly, Miller and her colleagues observed that women typically occupy a subordinate power position within a social system that is organized around domination-subordination as the dominant mode of relationship. Interpersonal relationships then take shape in response to the structure of hierarchy and “power-over.” Women’s development becomes increasingly marked by more fluid and permeable intrapsychic boundaries, in contrast to men’s.
As boys learn to separate from the mother and the world of emotional connection, they identify with what becomes a false, inauthentic self, a culturally defined voice of the dominant male role. Fromm’s description of the contemporary, well-adapted person, largely cut off from one’s own emotional reality, and whose mask conceals such feelings as helplessness, powerlessness, and an unclear identity, is a clinical picture of the outcome of this process, particularly for men.
More broadly, Fromm pointed out that patriarchy produces inherently distorting and damaging consequences for relationships and overall health for both men and women. For example, he explained (1980) that a patriarchal bias makes it impossible to think in terms of equality. A view of development which sees sexuality as essentially an inner chemical process within the male, with the female as the proper object of the drive, precludes recognizing the female as an equal subject, as an actor with her own desire, voice and intention.
Gilligan’s work extended such thinking by demonstrating the disconnections that typically occur during girls’ adolescence. By adulthood, women become largely selfless and voiceless in relationships. They use empathy and their capacity for relationship to cover over their own feelings and thoughts. A paradox then occurs in the form of the tendency to give up authentic relationships for the sake of preserving “relationships.” This is at the heart of women’s emotional disturbances. Learning to not know protects themselves from the consequences of relationships they cannot have. For example, in relationships of disconnection they fear that getting angry will make things worse.
One can see much of this as an extension of Fromm’s marketing character orientation, including the silencing one’s sense of self, alienation from one’s own desires, the lack of interest in nature, and seeing oneself as a commodity. All produce detachment and disconnection, both from inner truth and from relationships in which mutual affirmation as separate subjects is possible.
In short, conventional socialization crystallizes in the silencing of women’s sense of self and autonomous desire, and adaptation to the role of the controller, the dominator, for men. This process underlies what Gilligan, Miller, and others have described as the damage of disconnection.
Mutuality and the Relational Self
The Stone Center model holds that mutuality, or mutual intersubjectivity plays the central role in healthy development. Jordan (1991) defines mutuality in terms of interest in and cognitive-emotional awareness of the subjectivity of the other, through empathy; a willingness and ability to reveal one’s own inner states, needs, and experiences; and a valuing of the process of knowing and learning about the other. Central to Fromm’s thinking is a similar recognition that there can be no authentic contact between two people that does not affect both of them; that no interaction leaves either one of them unchanged.
This view of mutuality, however, contrasts with the views of relationship shared by most object relations theorists.
Miller (Miller & Stiver, 1993) argues that much current relational theory ignores the key role of mutual empathy and mutually empowered relationships. For example Kohut’s (1984) selfobject relationship is one which essentially serves the narcissistic needs of the individual. In addition, much of relational theory does not take into account distortions to relationships that accrue within a culture of having, possessing, and objectification of the other. One sees this absence, for example, in much of the work associated with the NYU model of relational psychoanalysis. As Miller has pointed out, the NYU model uses the language of objectification and does not take into account the distorting impact of cultural values and socialization.
In contrast, one can describe the Stone Center relational model as more a model of “subject relations.” That is, it views healthy human interaction as occurring between two or more fully realized subjects, people who recognize and affirm each other as subjects who have mutual impact on and recognition of the other. Interaction serves to extend and enhance mutual affirmation, an essential part of the biophilic orientation that Fromm described.
The Stone Center model attributes pathology to the consequences of the breakdown of mutuality. This links with Fromm’s view of the outcome of the “having” orientation, which can include narcissism, greed, and sadism. Fromm argued that the more malignant passions are oriented towards transforming everything in the world, including people, into objects one possesses.
The person who is well adapted to the power position, then, also tends to experience diminished pleasure in giving, sharing, and community. He or she is fundamentally unrelated and isolated, though may have little conscious awareness of this. The male who experiences this is often externally well-adapted, particularly to the culture of work (LaBier, 1986).� In this sense, successful Oedipal resolution for the male produces new, hidden pathology through a reinforcement of disconnection and the absence of critical emotional awareness.
Predating relational theory by several decades, Fromm argued that the most powerful drives derive from seeking solutions to the disconnection, sense of separation and isolation that is part of the human condition. The human is attempting to create meaning through a connected, affirming relationship with the world beyond oneself. The need to establish connection, and the need for meaning and purpose, therefore underlie the fundamental conflicts.
Central, here, is the Stone Center model’s concept of the “relational self.” In this view, the self is experienced in the context of relationship. It is not a bounded, fixed, self-contained entity, relating to external objects. The relational self develops to the degree that the person is able to experience mutual connection and validation with a larger community.
Seeing the self as relational shifts how one interprets symptoms and the process of change. One example would be interpreting anger as a symptom of a disconnection within a relationship. Clinical treatment would be based on illuminating the source of disconnection within the relationship, and working to shift or change one’s participation in that relationship. This focus on emotional experience as a product of the relational system and how it affects one’s sense of self is different from traditional formulations trying to “fix” the “anger problem” within the person.
This perspective is consistent with Fromm’s view that awareness of emotional truth about family and other relationships is a precondition for change. It is also consistent with his view of understanding symptoms as part of an entire relational system, the outcome of a way of life, which became established in family relations and continues to be reenacted or practiced in adulthood.
Emotional Connection and Health
Miller argues that qualities of the relational self, such as interpersonal sensitivity, capacity for vulnerability, and empathy, are strengths rather than weaknesses. But they are defined as weaknesses because they are associated with a form of self relegated to women in a hierarchical power structure. And as participants in a culture, which rewards “power-over,” women could only achieve power through indirect means, such as manipulation, undercutting, or hidden exploitation.
The crucial point, here, is that healthy self-definition can only occur in the context of connection. Relational theory argues that because the self is always in relationship, healthy growth is dependent on mutually affirming relationships. A healthy self involves constant, continuous oscillation between the experience of separation and connection. Growth, then, means the practice of authenticity and relational capacity, through which one becomes simultaneously more self-defined and connected.
These views are closely related to Fromm’s argument that striving for healthy connection, including the experience of unity and oneness with life, rests upon practicing and acting upon such capacities as reason, caring, and mutual affirmation.
In healthy relationships, the person becomes one with his or her “objects.” That is, objects cease to be objects. Fromm’s concept of the being mode describes, essentially, the model of healthy interpersonal relations stressed by the Stone Center model. Active, engaged, mutual relatedness to the world reflects the being mode, in contrast to feeding one’s self as an isolated entity, one’s status, image, and so on.
In this respect, the concept of the relational self has much in common with the perspective of Eastern traditions such as Zen, and the Christian mystics. The Stone Center has developed some of these implications more fully by demonstrating that healthy growth of the individual does not mean severing connections, but rather the growth of the capacity to engage in interactions which foster the development of all people involved. Both self-delineation and connections are enhanced through affirming relationships.
In this sense, the Stone Center model corrects a contradiction within Fromm’s work. He used language which suggests independence and individuation require “severing” of incestuous, regressive ties. Yet his overall theories and clinical perspectives regarding treatment suggest the opposite: that healthy development means transforming rather than severing connection. That maturation of cognitive and emotional capacities is an evolution in the direction of greater practice of mutuality and connectedness.
For Fromm’s, becoming aware of truth and struggling to remove illusions is part of the practice of simultaneous independence and connection. By recognizing that certain kinds of relationships support and enhance mutual subjectivity, one experiences what Fromm described as the “awakening” process that can occur in treatment. Similarly, the Stone Center model holds that a person who feels and thinks as a fully realized subject – similar to what Fromm described as the “being” mode – will not be threatened, emotionally or psychologically, by confronting and recognizing another’s subjectivity. This underscores the significance of the quality of the relational connection as a determinant of health or pathology.
Pathology and Disconnection
The Stone Center model argues that emotional disconnection and the breakdown of empathy produce pathology. The forces of disconnection are broad-based and pervasive within our culture. They include all forms of relational violation, from an abusing family to a traumatizing society, including its institutions and values which support a false self.
This is consistent with Fromm’s analysis of the damaging consequences of “normal” forms of adaptation upon character and the solutions people create in response to human relational needs. He argues that most illness, whether more malignant or more benign, represents failed or distorted attempts to establish positive solutions to the striving for meaning, purpose, and connection. That is, the fundamental human strivings, under favorable developmental and social conditions, lead to enhanced relatedness and positive connection. More severe disturbance represents the dominance of irrational passions, which, by definition, are non-relational.
The irony is that the greater amount of disconnection within relationships, the more “individuated” one feels. Yet, beneath this adaptive facade, one may be alienated and disconnected from oneself.
Fromm’s description of the disconnection women and men experience within contemporary culture predated current views of the impact of gender socialization in pathology. For example, he described the alienation and fear of losing what one has and possesses that lurks beneath the facade of many men who are well-adapted to their roles of socially-sanctioned power and position, which carry with them a sense of isolated autonomy.
One often sees the consequence of this erupt during midlife, when failed solutions to needs for human relatedness and sense of purpose generate new conflicts and questions about one’s choices in life, one’s way of being. That is, the maintenance of rationalizations and other defenses is extremely draining, and often tends to unravel during midlife when the needs for authenticity, mutuality, and meaning come to the fore. Jordan (1991) states, with reference to this period, that the man may feel great anxiety about what he defines as a passive or exposed position regarding his own feelings and the other person.
Miller describes, in particular, an overall sense of isolation, different from the experience of being alone, that results from disconnection. She states that the feeling of desperate loneliness is “usually accompanied by the feeling that you, yourself, are the reason for the exclusion. It is because of who you are. And you feel helpless, powerless, unable to act to change the situation” (Miller, 1986).
Both sexes seek to escape what Miller described as a combination of condemned isolation and powerlessness. Relationships of disconnection, then, can lead to either overt disturbance or arrested development. Each party participates in a process of making the other an object to possess or control, rather than a mutually recognized subject.
The Role of Passions
Fromm’s concept of the passions was also a precursor of the relational perspective, in that Fromm described the passions as relational by definition (Fromm, 1976, 1992). His description of passions like love, justice, and freedom as oriented toward development, while hate, suspicion, sadism and so on are destructive is foreign to conventional psychoanalytic thinking, yet congruent with the Stone Center’s clinical perspectives regarding values and practices which enhance mutual empowerment and health.
For example, the Stone Center model emphasizes such principles and values as love, truthfulness, and mutual respect as particularly suited to the fulfillment of human needs, and that violating them produces pathology. Fromm’s argument that it is necessary to evaluate perceived needs in terms of whether they are conductive to growth and well-being, or damaging to it is similar to Miller’s discussion regarding the qualities of relationships which further healthy growth vs. pathology.
Fromm argues that it is more difficult to recognize such passions as the desire for fame, power, possessions, revenge, or control as damaging because they are often adaptive and rewarded. In relational theory, such passions require disconnection with others and with the world because they are rooted in possession and control, which are attempted solutions to helplessness and powerlessness.
The Stone Center model’s portrayal of the clinical consequences of disconnection elaborates in new ways some earlier emphases of Fromm. For example, his portrayal of the “having mode” is one of pervasive disconnection and disengagement, which may take the form of narcissistic isolation or sadistic control. Such manifestations originate from seeing the other as the object of one’s own needs and desires, rather than as an equal subject, an actor within his or her own life.
THE AIMS AND METHODS OF TREATMENT
The methods and goals of psychoanalytic treatment constitute additional areas in which the Stone Center model is rooted in and extends many of Fromm’s seminal contributions.
For example, the Stone Center model gives a key role to mutual empathy and mutual empowerment in the therapeutic process. Miller (1993) stresses the clinical importance of being empathic with strategies patients use to stay out of connection in the therapy relationship. She argues that because the process of development so often involves moving away from knowledge about the self, away from authenticity, the therapeutic process must be seen in terms of alternating connection/disconnection, and the cultivation of mutual empathy.
Through repeated cycles of connection-disconnection-connection between therapist and patient, the patient brings more and more of oneself into the relationship. These include aspects of thinking, feeling, and awareness that one has learned to exclude.
The paradox, here, is that the person has learned to practice disconnection as a means to remaining in connection – at the expense, of course, of one’s sense of truth, inner reality, or self-affirmation. The process of relinquishing such strategies feels frightening, but gradually unfolds as the desire for authentic relationships awakens.
The necessity to support everything that enhances the patient’s capacity for heightened awareness of truth and for critical thinking was central to Fromm. From the Stone Center perspective, this would be seen as a necessary part of recognizing the distorting, damaging effects of disconnected relationships .
Such awareness, in turn, helps generates a struggle for greater freedom by enlisting the patient’s desire to confront the truth and restore lost “voice.” This is what Fromm described as the struggle between one’s irrational passions and the healthy, adult passions. For Fromm, the origin of cure is in the conflict created by the two forces.
What makes the Stone Center model particularly relevant to contemporary conflicts, and further linked with Fromm’s work, is its explicit focus on the distorting effects of gender and cultural values, and on the liberating effects of restored connection, which can be aided through the analytic process. This extends and deepens the implications of Fromm’s work in original and unique ways.
Fromm emphasizes the importance of the conveying an absence of sham and deception to the patient, and establishing an atmosphere of truth and non-judgmental compassion. This is congruent with the Stone Center’s emphasis on the role of openness, mutuality, and respect for the patient’s connection-disconnection. strategies that the Stone Center describes. Fromm’s focus, here, is on the analyst’s striving to experience in himself or herself what the patient is talking about; to see the patient as a hero of a drama, not as a collection of symptoms, a person fighting to live and deal with the world which one experiences.
This represents one of the streams of Fromm’s work that flow directly into the perspectives of the Stone Center, particularly the latter’s emphasis on bringing into relationship aspects of awareness that have been submerged or distorted through adaptation to cultural norms. The consequence is less concern with strengthening the ego against the force of internal drives, or of the self-cohesion and stability concerns of self-psychology theory, and more concern with enlisting a person’s struggle between – in Fromm’s language – irrational and malignant passions, and life affirming passions.
Both Fromm and the Stone Center model advocate the analyst taking an explicitly value-based stance on the side of life, affirming the patient’s active struggle toward seeing and acting upon truth; a biophilic aim oriented toward mutuality in relations, love, and creativity.
The more radical, political aspect of both Fromm’s work and the Stone Center model is present in their shared rejection of the goal of analysis as being able to suffer no more than the average member of one’s social class. In contrast, both support the goal of becoming more human, more free, independent and mutually related.
This necessarily involves exposing false consciousness and self-deception, within oneself and the larger society. Grey (1992) has written that by challenging the implicit values within the “pathology of normalcy” of the patient, the analyst elicits increased participation and more active sense of responsibility from the patient. The analyst attempts to achieve a connection with the patient but not become caught up in the patient’s cover story.
This expresses much of what Miller and others have described as the process of connecting through mutual empathy with the patient, a process essentially the same as what Fromm referred to as “center-to-center” relatedness with the patient. Fromm argued that it is necessary for the analyst to enter inside the patient, while at the same time remaining himself or herself. It this sense the analytic work is a process of engagement between two subjects, who experience a center-to-center relatedness. This key concept, which generates a sense of vitality, stimulation and aliveness within the hour, illustrates, in Fromm’s terms, the “being” mode; and, in the Stone Center model, the experience of mutual empathy.
The Role of the Analyst
A central feature of the analyst’s role within the Stone Center model is dealing with one’s own fear of vulnerability and desire to stay out of relationships oneself. Practitioners may mask this by emphasizing the need to remain “objective,” or seeing “overinvolvement” as leading to regression. Consistent with Fromm’s emphasis on immediacy, presence, and authenticity in the analytic hour, the Stone Center model calls for recognizing the tendency of the analyst to rationalize self-protective strategies, and shift to a fuller resonating with the patient.
Miller (1993) argues that strategies of disconnection in the patient can arouse similar strategies in the analyst. This happens particularly when the patient is moving from connection to disconnection, in which the analyst is prone to mobilize his or her own defensive strategies. The key, in Miller’s view, is the therapist’s being empathic with the patient’s need to oscillate, without which the patient would feel out of control and alone.
Similarly, Jordan (1993) maintains that the difficulty of many analysts are rooted in their own limitations or defensiveness, which interferes with empathy and mutuality. This, in turn, reflects that the dominant culture is highly invested in isolation and in denying vulnerability. Here, she underscores the political dimension of therapy, through supporting the patient’s becoming aware that adaptation to the dominant culture contains a problem, to the degree one accepts dominance and “power-over” as solutions.
The Stone Center’s analysis of therapeutic strategy is both congruent with and further extends Fromm’s portrayal of empathic connection within the analytic hour. Though using somewhat different language, he spoke of the need to transform the analytic process from the detached observer model, in which one studies and treats an object, to interpersonal communication, grounded in the full emotional experience of the patient.
Fromm argued that if the experience of a patient fails to strike a chord of experience within the analyst, the latter does not understand the patient. Anticipating what the Stone Center model has since elaborated upon regarding the analyst-patient relationship, Fromm emphasized that the analyst must permit him/herself to be vulnerable, and not hide behind the role of the professional who knows all the answers. At the same time the analyst must not collude with the patient’s pathology through fear of confronting the truth, or through avoidance of painful material to “protect” the patient.
In this view, both analyst and patient are engaged in a common task: creating a shared understanding of the patient’s experience. This must be linked with the analyst’s full response to that experience. Fromm contrasts this, as does Miller and her colleagues, with the traditional model of seeing conflict as essentially a repetition of the past, and the aim of treatment as bringing infantile awareness into conflict in order to strengthen the ego to better cope with instinctual material.
The Stone Center model maintains that in order to move away from participation in violating and disconnecting relationships, one needs to experience validating and encouraging relationships, based on genuine connection. Therefore, healing can occur only when authenticity is present during treatment.
In showing the linkage between past, present, and cultural forces, Fromm argued that such experiences as powerlessness are not limited to the experience of the child. The adult is powerless also, both because of fundamental conditions of human existence, and because of historical realities, such as the exploitation of the majority by an elite. For both sets of reasons, people will seek magic helpers and new idols to submit to, in order to create an illusion of security.
All of these forces contribute to the ways in which a conflicts from early family relationships will present themselves as adults. Fromm’s continuing emphasis on the damage to one’s sense of authenticity and spontaneity that can result from struggling with irrational authority systems is similar to the Stone Center’s view about the pathological consequences of learning to ignore or deny one’s voice, one’s recognition of truth, while growing up within a patriarchal culture.
This latter dimension, concerning the impact of power relationships upon one’s potential for health or sickness, was, of course, a central pillar of Fromm’s thinking. It is also an underpinning of the Stone Center model. One sees this, clinically, through the form of participation in them, either through the dominant or subordinate position. Miller and her colleagues have pointed out, for example, that women are faced with undertaking a political act when attempting to heal the damage of disconnection, particularly at midlife, when the desire to restore “lost voice” often resurfaces.
In terms of the outcome of conventional socialization that the analyst must work with, Fromm maintained that a person may achieve a range of awareness or awakeness, from partial – based on what is necessary to win, destroy, or survive – to a more optimal awareness, which expands beyond immediate self-oriented needs to include full awareness of oneself and others. In such a relationship, one experiences heightened awareness of the moment, of the mutual stimulation that occurs. It also means experiencing feelings, not thinking about feelings.
This description is essentially what Miller and her colleagues describe regarding the growth that occurs in therapeutic work with women, whose voice has been silenced and distorted by socialized unawareness. One develops heightened capacity to face life and mobilize one’s inner strengths to struggle with fears. For both Fromm and the Stone Center, truth is liberating. It is nourished by mutually empathic relationships, through which one becomes freer to embrace the truth and deal with it courageously.
The Criteria of Health
The Stone Center model’s understanding of health shares much of the same perspective and values orientation with Fromm. For example, Surrey (1991) describes some of the features that one finds in relationships that grow in healthy ways. Her research indicates three processes which underlie relationships of healthy connection: mutual engagement, mutual empathy, and mutual empowerment. When all three are present in relationships, specific capacities are strengthened. Miller and her colleagues have described these as a heightened sense of vitality; increased experience of empowerment, based on each individual’s active presence within the moment; increased clarity of truth, derived from increased knowledge about the self and other; and increased capacity for activeness.
These qualities are quite similar to Fromm’s description of the capacities of the healthy individual, qualities of the “being” mode, and with what he called the “transtherapeutic” aims of psychoanalysis, those beyond symptom relief. These goals include heightened capacity for concentration, capacity for deepening relationships, mindfulness and clarity in interactions and in other spheres of activity.
Additionally, Fromm’s emphasis on recognizing that a person’s conflicts are part of an entire system, a “practice” of life, also links with the Stone Center model’s emphasis on bringing into one’s awareness and relationships more of one’s emotional reality. The aim is developing an increasingly more authentic, integrated, aware self; a concept similar to Fromm’s.
One may question, here, how this perspective differs from any good psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic treatment. There are three critical differences: First, it brings into therapeutic focus the dimension of the culture and gender forces which link with the patients childhood conflicts; secondly, it explicitly affirms and supports human values embodied in the broader aim of the treatment to build and enhance relational connection; and thirdly, it emphasizes integrating awareness with shift of life practice.
When Fromm argues that the sanity of normal adaptation is paid for by emotional numbness and false consciousness, he is describing the kinds of experiences that Miller and her colleagues have worked with in troubled women, whose symptoms of anger and depression are part of the price of their socialized adaptation.
Again, the political component is apparent in both. Fromm points out that family and developmentally-based conflicts may exist parallel to, or even serve as a mask for, conflicts regarding integrity, authenticity, or self-interest which derive from adaptation to adult roles and culture. Miller and her colleagues describe the latter with respect to typical expressions of women patients about their conflicts, in which they are more likely to attribute their anger in an unequal relationship to an internal defect.
The analyst can help the patient face alternatives, both those turned away from in the past and new ones in the present, that are aroused by new awareness and grounded in the experience of mutual empathy. The task of the analyst is to help the patient envision new alternatives which can awaken energies.
Fromm (1992) gives the example of a person struggling with submission. The person must not only becoming aware of the developmental roots of it, and of all its qualities, forms, and experience in the present, but also work to make actual shifts in what one does, how one relates in practice, in order to become more free. As one becomes aware of the experience of non-submission, then one begins to practice courage in the face of it. Through the process of mutual empathy between patient and analyst, one begins to find new questions about one’s condition and symptoms, and seek healthier solutions with greater courage.
Helping the patient to experience the strategies of distortion and rationalization he or she adopted as a child enables the patient to envision shifts in his or her belief systems and values, away from the old, and to free up capacity for productive relationships with people and life in general. Fromm describes this in terms of confronting the sick part of the patient with the healthy part; the infantile with the adult.
In discussing Fromm’s perspectives on treatment, Biancoli (1992) points out that certain forms of sickness in relation to the social structure may indicate the disobedience of the healthy and hidden part of the person, which has not found any other way of affirmation. This also describes how the relational model interprets pathology in terms of failed or thwarted forms of connection within early relationships, which can be repeated throughout adulthood. The healthy capacity for relationship is expressed in damaged form through the symptom, and this can be understood more fully by looking at the relational systems of the patient.
In his many respectful critiques of Freud’s work, Fromm often reminded his readers that “from the shoulders of a giant, one can see farther than the giant.” This is a good description of Fromm’s own legacy with respect to the relational theory I have discussed in this paper.
The major pillars of the Stone Center relational model rest, in my view, on many of the original psychoanalytic and sociobiological contributions of Fromm. From this foundation, the relational perspective in general, and the Stone Center model in particular, is extending and deepening a new vision of healing emotional damage and for broadening the possibilities for human growth in contemporary culture.
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